Vår Gård: Heart and soul in Saltsjöbaden
Text: Malin Norman | Photos: Vår Gård
The conference hotel Vår Gård is much more than its beautiful setting and charming buildings. It has a long history, Sweden’s most fascinating art collection, and delicacies by award-winning chefs and bakers. Take a peek inside and meet some of its people.
Vår Gård in Saltsjöbaden has a lot of history to it. The beautiful old buildings were constructed by industry tycoons such as Thiel and Wallenberg over a hundred years ago. Eventually, the estate was purchased by the Swedish Co-operative Union (KF) in the 1920s, and became an educational hub for its many employees. Over the years, tens of thousands of people came here for training courses.
“The spirit of Vår Gård has remained, but in a more modern way,” explains Frida Janneson, marketing co-ordinator. Vår Gård is still a popular venue for conferences as well as private stays and weddings, appreciated for its tranquil setting in the Stockholm archipelago.
“Our oldest building is from the 1800s, the main building is from the 1950s, and every room has its own character. It’s a bit like coming home.”
Vår Gård has been awarded for its fantastic service and atmosphere. One of the dedicated staff members is pastry chef Patimakorn Padtum Söderström, crowned Sweden’s Baker of the Year in 2017. Her treats include mouth-watering delicacies such as petit choux with custard cream and raspberry jam, and banana cake with chocolate mousseline. She loves both the setting and the opportunities at Vår Gård: “I live in Tumba and travel by public transport. It takes three hours per day and is not optimal, but well worth it when I get here. The water makes me calm. And I have the luxury of being both a baker and a pastry chef, whereas at most places in Sweden you do either-or.”
Another of Vår Gård’s stars is Abdo Merjans, who washes the dishes in the kitchen. “I love everything here – the environment, the people, the food. It’s never boring; I’m always busy. Sometimes I listen to the radio, but it’s more fun to chat with the girls in the kitchen. Their food is so good. I love Swedish home-cooked food.” Dedicated gardener Anders Grönqvist praises Vår Gård:
“It’s hard to imagine a better working environment. I look out the window and have the archipelago right outside. And the food and fika are amazing.”
No waste, just taste
The talented chefs at Vår Gård have initiated a dinner concept called No Waste, Just Taste. The first no-waste dinner took place last spring, and more are in the pipeline. Here, guests are taken on an inspiring culinary journey, where waste produce is transformed into a gastronomic experience. “By doing this, we highlight the importance of reducing food waste, and guests are surprised that a bit of creativity and innovation can achieve such a tasty and versatile dinner,” says Janneson. Sustainability is also central at the popular Christmas dinner.
“We are continuing our focus on no waste, and instead of a huge Christmas buffet, which is common in Sweden, we have limited it to the most popular favourites.”
In addition to the spectacular setting and nothing but delicious cuisine, Vår Gård has one of Sweden’s best art collections, and guests can explore the works during art tours around the estate’s buildings and park. Here, you can find art by famous Swedish painters such as Olle Baertling, Hertha Hillfon and Lisa Larsson. And there is plenty more to keep guests active, with fitness and yoga classes, outdoors adventures, tastings and much more.
But what gives that special feeling of heart and soul at Vår Gård? According to the CEO, Kadi Upmark, it’s the people who work there, such as Patimakorn, Abdo and Anders. Upmark writes in the hotel’s own magazine: “What is a hotel? A building of course, with a reception and bedrooms. Maybe a restaurant. Beds and a lot of coffee cups. But really, a hotel is more of a feeling, an experience or a state of mind. Our guests say that it’s in the walls. Personally, I think that the atmosphere has to do with our people and the warmth they give.”
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